The Mountain Goats

I see them climbing their mountains and I see my mom looking up at them, her head raised and her chin pointing out, my dad with his back turned. We are standing there looking, up the mountain the goats and their white fur, some of them their horns. Some birds come in and around them but the goats, they don’t do anything. They stand and barely move their heads every once in awhile.

We stand and watch, me and my mom and my dad. All of us looking in a different direction.

And the mountain goats here are white and they have these tiny little goats with them, their babies, so it must be that time for them, when the goats here have their babies and they climb the mountain with them, up on the grey rocks.

WE SHOULD GO my dad says and he doesn’t turn back to us when he says it, he keeps his back turned, and the mountain goat up on the mountain, its baby by its feet, it chews with an open mouth. When I chew with an open mouth my mom will say DON’T CHEW WITH YOUR MOUTH OPEN. Her face will look pained, her eyebrows dipping into her eyes. But if she is feeling good she will say DON’T CHEW WITH YOUR MOUTH OPEN, PLEASE. Some days she feels good and some days she doesn’t. That is how I am my mother.

TRAFFIC my dad says and I say YEP, like how it slips out. I don’t drive and I don’t know about traffic except that it takes us longer to get to where we want to go. What do I know about driving I am thinking when my dad he says the same thing. WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT DRIVING he says and I almost say yep again, but then I don’t, because today at the zoo is a day I am learning. Sometimes you say things back and sometimes you don’t, And sometimes words come out on accident and you can’t take them back.

That happens and traffic happens and we stand and watch in quiet.

My mom wipes sweat from her forehead, where her hair meets her face, and my dad he looks at his watch twice. I guess he is hoping that today will be something it is not.

And the mountain goats, their baby, one of them, it hops down from where it was, its hooves making a thud on the pretend rocks, this mountain made of sidewalks, and it says something. What the baby mountain goat says is called bleating. It isn’t words but noise. I know that it is called bleating because I read the sign last time we were here and I remember what it was called. The mountain goat baby leaps down from its mother and bleats. And its mother, she just chews some more with her mouth open. And the mountain goat dad, like my dad, he stays off to the side somewhere, up a level, his horns shining tan in sun.

IT’S HOT I say because I don’t want YEP to be the last thing I said to my dad, his back turned at this fence, my mom looking up at the grey. And YEP is what he says back, just like me, the two of us.

The goats they stand and the sun goes. If it was raining then these goats would stand I think, in the rain, feeling the rain go into their backs. And the sun when it came again it would dry them down, warm them up again.

And we will come back to this zoo, me and my mom and my dad and maybe then it will be raining and we will stand in it, in the rain or under a tree, the water looking like static in the air. My mom and my dad and me. Her chin pointing to the sky, my dad’s back towards the fence, me not saying anything. Because the silence here and the goat hooves on the fake rocks, that is better.

They stand in the sun, these mountain goats here. They burn up in white fur. We stand and watch and are quiet again.

WE SHOULD GET GOING my dad says, and so we do. We go. And the goats they stand, don’t move, and that is how it stops, us looking at the goats, us making to go.

J. A. Tyler is founding editor of mud luscious and the author of Someone, Somewhere (ghost road press, 2009), In Love With a Ghost (willows wept press, 2010), and Inconceivable Wilson (vox press, 2010) as well as the chapbooks Our Us & We (greying ghost), Zoo: The Tropic House (sunnyoutside), Everyone in this is Either Dying or Will Die or is Thinking of Death (achilles), and The Girl in the Black Sweater (trainwreck press). Visit:

I Built a Fifth House

I built a fifth house near the river. I placed my head under its water and drank. I was a deer again, as my brother and I had been when we were young, hooking antlers, lowering our necks. My brother the deer, that forest. We would run in those woods until the sun dissolved, until the river froze. Those were skies meant to be believed. Those were stars held up by strings. Those were different woods than these.

In these woods, standing beside this river, I am lost. I don’t know where I came from. I left a trail of yarn, what was a scarf, but when I follow it, I am only led in circles. I loop trees and rocks but do not come to any understanding. These woods are where I am going to die. Those woods, when my brother and I were deer, those were the woods of our beginnings.

I built this fifth house of scarf yarn, layering it up into walls and windows. I worked the yarn as a constructivist would. I built a chimney for the first snow and hung gutters for the rain. I planted flowers in the front to greet my brother when he returns, when he brings a scythe instead of a black dot on a scrap of paper, when he brings intention. And if he never does, the flowers will burn up like summer, my scarf yarn to flames in front of this house.

I wait for him to return with hooves, though he may hide inside of a fox or a bear or a rabbit. He may linger in a bird until it is time. This means I must keep watch on all of them from my open doorway, twirling a strung-out wall of yarn in my fingers. I am a careful eye on these trees, but I see nothing. These woods will not abandon me, even though I am lost, even though my brother is hiding in its furs, even though the moment of my death has been messaged to me here.

As deer we breathed woods, my brother and I. We ran through lifetimes. But he does not return in any kind of body. The river is generous and keeps running. And the moon goes about its rising even as the house flickers to fire. The fifth house burns down with me inside it. The animals scatter back to their own homes in the branches and the hollows. And the scarf yarn house goes quickly, burning down, and I am alone again. But these woods are not for hopelessness, they are for learning how to remember. Deer-brother, there are always still these woods.

J. A. Tyler is founding editor of Mud Luscious Press and author of Inconceivable Wilson (Scrambler Books) as well as the forthcoming A Man of Glass & All the Ways We Have Failed (Fugue State Press) and, with John Dermot Woods, the image text novel No One Told Me I Would Disappear (Jaded Ibis Press).